Confronting Racism

 Glenn Bigonet, M.A.

Social Activist for Racial Equity

Facilitating Discussions about Racism

 

617-462-6642

gbigonet@icloud.com

           

 

Intersectionality

 

"If feminism can understand the patriarchy, it's important to question why so many

feminists struggle to understand whiteness as a political structure in the very same way."

Reni Eddo-Lodge

 

Intersectionality is a term coined by Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw to describe the effects of the intersections of our various identities. All people have multiples identities that influence how we relate to the rest of the world and how the world relates to us. For instance, I am white, I am a man, I am heterosexual, I am CIS gender, I am educated, I am a professional, I am an older person, I am abled, I am straight, I am wealthy, I am a recovering addict, etc. Each of these identities influences how I look at the world and how the world looks at me. If someone doesn't take into account all of my identities then I, and my needs, will be misunderstood. 

 

In the context of racism it is important to look at how all of our identities give us privelege or marginalize us. When we focus on just one group at a time that is marginalized we then leave other marginalized groups alone and more marginalized. Feminist do harm when they just focus on the rights of women without at the same time considering women of color, or gay women, or transgendered women. Too many times in recent history have the subgroups of a larger marginalized group been neglected. The majority of group in essence marginalizes many of its members because the needs of their intersecting identitites are not acknowedged or held a a priority. If we are to create true social justice we need to include the needs of all members of a group not just the majority of it.     

 

The effects of intersectionality are complex and consdering them takes much more effort and this effort is not second nature for most people. Ijeoma Oluo lays out the following questions we can all ask oursleves while doing this work to help increase the inclusion of intersectionality. (p. 80-81)

  • How might race, gender, sexuality, ability, class or sex impact this subject?
  • Could the identity differences between me and the person I'm talking with about race be be contributing to our differences of opinion or perspective?
  • Are the people in my racial justice conversations and the opinions being considered truly representing the diversity of identities that interact with the subject matter being addressed?
  • Does my scholarship of racial justice reflect the diversity of identities impacted by racial oppression?
  • Am I listening to people whose identities and experiences differ from mine? 
  • Am I looking for what I don't know?
  • Am I shifting some focus and power away from the most privileged in the conversation?
  • Am I providing a safe space for marginalized people to speak out? 

Regularly asking ourselves these questions will go far to help assure we become more intersectional and thus more socially equal.

 

I have not read this anywhere but it seems to me that the more we are aware of how our own unique mixture of identities effect us then we will have greater understanding of our own biases and how they influence the way we respond to racial issues. I'll be interested to learn how others think about this.  

Copyright © 2020   Glenn Bigonet, M.A.